New OLF sites panned, old sites still viable

Published 9:45 am Saturday, November 3, 2007

By Staff
Havelock advocates: OLF needed ‘somewhere’
Staff Writer
RALEIGH — Debra Vaughn’s algebra students were without their teacher Thursday.
Instead, she left them with a substitute teacher and traveled to the capital to oppose an outlying landing field in her native Gates County.
The meeting was held to discuss the possible economic impacts of an OLF at six new sites proposed by the Navy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in September. The group heard representatives of Gates and Camden counties, where four of those six sites are located.
While opposition to an OLF in northeastern North Carolina was clearly relayed to the group, Hugh Overholt, speaking for Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow, said he wants to see the field go somewhere in the state.
Site E, one of five original sites identified by the Navy in its environmental impact study, is in Craven and Beaufort counties. Overholt said an OLF there would help sustain Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. Once an OLF is built, two squadrons of F/A-18 Super Hornets will be based at Cherry Point, which Overholt said would bring about $60 million to the local economy. Eight other squadrons and a training squadron will be stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va.
Advocating for an OLF at Site E didn’t sit well with Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill, also a member of the study group. He said considering the site didn’t jive with Easley intentions when he called the study group together in September.
Spruill asked that ACT look into the possible benefits to Cherry Point of an OLF at one of the two new southern sites the Navy put on the table in September. The Angola Bay site is in Duplin and Pender counties. The Hofman Forest site, land owned primarily by North Carolina State University, is in Jones and Onslow counties.
A decision from Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter whether to formally consider any of the six new sites is expected on or about Nov. 15. Rear Adm. David Anderson, the Navy’s top officer on the OLF project, said his “focus has been directed to the area to support Oceana,” meaning the four northeastern sites.
Anderson would not confirm that the two squadrons promised Cherry Point were or were not contingent on an OLF in North Carolina because he was “not authorized to answer” that question.
Wherever an OLF is eventually built, N.C. Rep. William Wainwright, D-Craven, said the “time is now that we should demonstrate our support and commitment” for the Navy. Wainwright, who represents Craven and Lenoir counties, was appointed to the study group in early October.